A virtual event hosted by the Central Asia Program at George Washington University on March 3, 2022.
The discussion topics included the implications of the March 12 snap presidential elections in Turkmenistan, which are expected to see power pass from President Gurbangully Berdymukhamedow, who has ruled since 2006, to his son Serdar Berdymukhamedow. Former U.S. Ambassadors to Turkmenistan Laura Kennedy and Allan Mustard, the executive director of the NGO Saglyk Aynabat Yaylymova and IERES Research Professor Sebastien Peyrouse will address how the elections could affect the situation in the country; what we know about Serdar Berdymukhamedow, who has been nominated as the candidate of the ruling party; and whether any reforms or increased openness could be expected in the context of an increasingly difficult economic and social situation.
A former career diplomat, Laura Kennedy served as Ambassador to Turkmenistan (2001-3) and to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva (2010-13). She was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs and Deputy Commandant of the National War College. She currently serves on a number of boards dealing with foreign affairs, disarmament and nonproliferation.
Allan Mustard was U.S. ambassador to Turkmenistan from January 2015 to June 2019. A career Foreign Service Officer with the Foreign Agricultural Service, Ambassador Mustard previously served as chief of the agriculture section at the U.S. embassies in New Delhi, Mexico City, Moscow, and Vienna, and at the U.S. consulate general in Istanbul; and as assistant agricultural attache in Moscow, USSR. Ambassador Mustard is a graduate of Grays Harbor College and the University of Washington, holds an M.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a certificate in Russian from Leningrad State University. He speaks Russian, German and basic Spanish.
Aynabat Yaylymova is a citizen of Turkmenistan and has worked with a number of civil society organizations in Turkmenistan and the United States over her career. She is Founder and Executive Director of Saglyk and Progres Foundation. Saglyk.org has been working to improve public health literacy in Turkmenistan over the last 11 years, including becoming a leading source of COVID-19 information in the Turkmen language. Progres.online is an online analytical journal that promotes better, nuanced understanding of the societal trends in Turkmenistan by providing quality research and policy analysis. Progres Foundation works to support various progressive initiatives that benefit the public in Turkmenistan.
Sebastien Peyrouse, PhD, is a Research Professor at the Central Asia Program in the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (George Washington University). His main areas of expertise are political systems in Central Asia, economic and social issues, Islam and religious minorities, and Central Asia’s geopolitical positioning toward China, India and South Asia. He authored and co-authored several books on Central Asia, including Turkmenistan: Strategies of Power, Dilemmas of Development (Routledge, 2012).
Slavomír Horák, Moderator
Slavomír Horák is an Associate Professor at the Department of Russian and East European Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague. His research covers political, social and economic issues in the former USSR, with a focus on Central Asia. He conducts a systematic research on Turkmenistan’s domestic issues, especially informal politics and state- and nation-building.